Horace Odes 1.9 (Contributed by Nicholas Debenham)

In World War II General Heinrich Kreipe, the German military Governor of Crete, was kidnapped by the British in a daring raid by a Special Operations Executive team, led by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

The story is that General Kreipe, when being conducted up Mount Ida by his British captors, gazed at the snow-covered peak and murmured the words of Horace’s ode Ad Thaliarchum,  beginning:

“Vides ut alta stet nive candidum

Patrick Leigh Fermor then recited the rest of it.  The shared experience of Classical learning formed an improbable bond between the two.

The whole event is narrated in Ill met by Moonlight by W S Moss, widely popularised in the film of the same name (Dirke Bogarde, of course)…

Nicholas Debenham



Vides ut alta stet nive candidum

Soracte nec iam sustineant onus

silvae laborantes geluque

flumina constiterint acuto?


dissolve frigus ligna super foco

large reponens atque benignius

deprome quadrimum Sabina,

o Thaliarche, merum diota.


permitte divis cetera, qui simul

stravere ventos aequore fervido

deproeliantis, nec cupressi

nec veteres agitantur orni.


quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et

quem Fors dierum cumque dabit, lucro

adpone nec dulcis amores

sperne puer neque tu choreas,


donec virenti canities abest

morosa. nunc et campus et areae

lenesque sub noctem susurri

conposita repetantur hora,


nunc et latentis proditor intumo

gratus puellae risus ab angulo

pignusque dereptum lacertis

aut digito male pertinaci.





See, how it stands, one pile of snow,

Soracte! ‘neath the pressure yield

Its groaning woods; the torrents’ flow

With clear sharp ice is all congeal’d.


Heap high the logs, and melt the cold,

Good Thaliarch; draw the wine we ask,

That mellower vintage, four-year-old,

From out the cellar’d Sabine cask.


The future trust with Jove; when he

Has still’d the warring tempests’ roar

On the vex’d deep, the cypress-tree

And aged ash are rock’d no more.


O, ask not what the morn will bring,

But count as gain each day that chance

May give you; sport in life’s young spring,

Nor scorn sweet love, nor merry dance,


While years are green, while sullen eld

Is distant. Now the walk, the game,

The whisper’d talk at sunset held,

Each in its hour, prefer their claim.


Sweet too the laugh, whose feign’d alarm

The hiding-place of beauty tells,

The token, ravish’d from the arm

Or finger, that but ill rebels.



Distant View of Mount Soracte, near Rome, by George Loring Brown.


Chosen by Nicholas Debenham. The translation is from Perseus.

The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.

Read more of this text at the Perseus site.

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